"It is said of God that no one can behold his face and live. I always thought this meant that no one could see his splendor and live. A friend said perhaps it meant that no one could see his sorrow and live. Or perhaps his sorrow is his splendor.
And great mystery: to redeem our brokenness and lovelessness the God who suffers with us did not strike some mighty blow of power but sent his beloved son to suffer like us, through his suffering to redeem us from suffering and evil.
...Though I confessed that the man of sorrows was God himself, I never saw the God of sorrows. Though I confessed that the man bleeding on the cross was the redeeming God, I never saw God himself on the cross, blood from sword and thorn and nail dripping healing into the world's wounds."
-Nicholas Wolterstorff, prominent philosophical theologian in his book Lament for a Son
Growing up in the largely Catholicized Philippines gave me many opportunities to see crucifixes in rather odd places. Little shops in the marketplace would have a Santo Nino doll, hands outstretched in blessing, and next to it would be a cross with Jesus twisted in pain. The way I remember it, there were crucifixes everywhere. They were usually rather large, almost always made of plastic, and were somehow battery powered so that little candles would flicker in front of them. Sometimes they looked rather creepy.
Being Protestants, we didn't have Jesus hanging on any cross in our home or at church. Any crosses our churches featured would be rather bright, angular, and... empty. The way my mom explained it was that we like to remember Jesus as he is now, glorified and seated at the right hand of the Father. And that made sense.
But the more acquainted I get with suffering, the more I need to see Jesus, God himself, twisting in pain on the cross. I need to see his blood flowing, his hands and feet mutilated beyond imagination. I need to see Jesus drinking in full his cup of pain. I need to remember his beautiful wounds which offer me the promise of healing. And when I see him one day, one of the first places I want to look is at his hands and feet, at his scars that remain.
In Revelation chapter 5, the apostle John is weeping and weeping because no one has been found worthy enough to open the sacred scroll and break open its seals. One of the elders comforts him,
"Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals. Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders."This is a really apocalyptic passage (one of the reasons I don't read this book as often as it deserves!) John is told here that the Lion of the tribe of Judah (In my opinion one of the more glorious names of Jesus) has triumphed and therefore only He can open the sacred scroll which John wants opened so badly. And when John looks up to see this magnificent person, what does he see? A triumphant King appearing like a mighty Lion? A glorious Being of beauteous light? No, John sees something weak, something bloodied, something vulnerable.
Christ in his glorious triumph comes as a lamb. A lamb that looks like it has been slain. That's not very sexy or powerful or even attractive, is it?
The prolific 19th century preacher C. H. Spurgeon said this in one of his sermons entitled "The Wounds of Jesus,"
"We may talk of Christ in his beauty, raising the dead and stilling the tempest, but oh! there never was such a matchless Christ as he that did hang upon the cross. There I behold all his beauties, all his attributes developed, all his love drawn out, all his character expressed in letters so legible as I see them written in crimson upon the bloody tree. Beloved, these are to Jesus what they are to us; they are his ornaments, his royal jewels, his fair array."
Don't mind me, I'm just going to wait here a while, looking at the glorious wounds of Jesus.